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On Monday, March 12, the Storybook Circus area of Orlando's Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World soft-opened a few attractions mid-morning. The land and attractions are scheduled to open for regular business on March 31, but like most attractions, they were finished early enough to allow for testing by the ride operators AND for "soft opening" testing to the general public. The newly-constructed Dumbo, the Barnstormer, and the train depot were all open for business. To judge by the theming of the attractions and the little details scattered around the land, Disney has a winner on its hands here. Today's update will be one of three parts, heavy on the pictures, and lighter than usual on the commentary.

Read what you’re missing...

The souvenir map is new, with a photo of Dumbo on the cover. You can tell, though, that it's the "old" Dumbo used (a minor point, to be sure). Inside the map, the new attractions are listed, though the 'other' half of Storybook Circus is blank, with no buildings identified yet. Surprisingly, the Casey Jr. splashzone is on the map, implying it's coming soon. We also see that the Barnstormer has NOT been renamed to the Great Goofini. It's still called Barnstormer on the map.

The tents are not there on the ‘other’ side of the circus.

There are still construction walls up; but they've opened up a walkway through them to the attractions. On the walls are a few posters, including a new one that features Humphrey, one of the more obscure Disney characters.

It’s open! Let’s go in.

The artwork is friendly, retro—almost like the Magician Mickey stuff on Main Street.

The high level of detail begins here, on the ground. They've continued the wagon wheel tracks in the cement to make it look like a circus wagon pulled through here. The horse hoofprints are now joined, however, by other animal footprints (monkeys, lions, etc), and more than a few fans have been observed to coo with delight at the "peanuts" (they are fake) hardened into the concrete "mud," as if dropped by a passing elephant.

Watch for peanuts.

We come to Dumbo first.

Inset: A closeup of the “tent” Dumbo logo.

The transplated Dumbo is still under construction (much of it is missing, in fact) and behind walls. The new Dumbo is open, however. There's a minor outdoor line (it has a shade cover), but the large tent structure behind was not open on this first day; this is the NextGen queue and the presumed place where Standby riders will go, leaving the outdoor queue for FastPass (there weren't a lot of themed elements in the queue).

Dumbo lives!

There's a ticket booth outside Dumbo, used as the moment to hold the lanyards that time the line. It doesn't have the look of a working ticket booth; I don't anticipate a return to A-E tickets here. Rather, this is theming specific for the ride, since this is meant to be a circus attraction (and circus attractions need to collect ride tickets).

There's a tiny spark of objection in my consciousness here, having to do with the theme overall. Disney parks provide simulated environments for escapism. Do we want/need an escape to a carnival-type atmosphere? The same problems plague Dino-Rama and Paradise Pier in Disney California Adventure. I don't like the theme there, too. It could be a very well-themed simulation, but if it's a simulation that's kind of close to what we're actually DOING, then it's a lot less obvious why to even bother.

On the ticket booth, watch for the Magic Feather motif. You'll see the Magic Feather again on the inside gate at the loading zone.

Magic feathers in the sign (left). The ticket booth has another magic feather (right).
Still more feathers (top). Timothy the Mouse is still around (bottom).

In the line, Timothy the Mouse makes an appearance on one sign. He's not in the new Dumbo structure. You'll find the storks again, and you'll find a peanut theme repeated in a few places amid the neo-Rococo designs.

See the peanut motif over and over?

Storks, feathers and peanuts.

Most of all, and probably first of all, you'll notice that Dumbo now soars over water! This adds an element that's been missing in Orlando, though other versions worldwide have the water, and it makes a big difference.


Those are 7-color LEDs under the water here at Dumbo, and the effect is breathtaking at night. It really adds an extra layer of enchantment. Who knew Disney could take a simple spinner ride and make it a must-see attraction?

You'll also see painted scenes near the base of the spinner that re-tell the story. This is a nice touch and is illustrative of how far WDI went in their efforts here. This is just one of many places where they added theming that didn't HAVE to be there, but functions as a "plus." Give them more than is minimally-necessary, and maybe even more than they can digest in one sitting, was one of Walt Disney's tenets for ride creation, and the expansion generally lives up to this.

Painted scenes along the base of the spinner.

I'm not convinced yet that the colors fit the rest of the land. Dumbo is bright and chock full of primary colors, and it looks shiny, glossy, and new. But the rest of the land has a different vibe; it looks lived-in, real, possibly even gritty. In the end, though, this is a minor quibble and certainly overthinking things. The hordes of tourists with daughters in princess dresses certainly did not seem to mind; they happily waited in the long line just for a chance to ride Dumbo.

To the side of Dumbo is stroller parking. You know it's a banner day when I'm going to rave about the stroller parking. They could have EASILY built a plain, boring, even lame wall here to create a stroller parking zone. They didn't. They made stone walls that required time, effort, and money. I applaud them for spending the money to do it right.

When is a wall not a wall?

The Barnstormer is next door. Let's continue the photo tour on the next page.

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Kevin Yee may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally. FTC-Mandated Disclosure: As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Kevin Yee pays for his own admission to theme parks and their associated events, unless otherwise explicitly noted.

© 2012 Kevin Yee

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Readers are invited to join Kevin on Facebook, where he offers regular "Where in Walt Disney World" photo quizzes.

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Kevin’s Disney Books

Kevin is the author of many books on Disney theme parks, including:

  • Jason’s Disneyland Almanac (co-written with Jason Schultz) is an exhaustive listing of every day in Disneyland history, from 1955 to 2010. You’ll find park operating hours, weather and temperatures, and openings and closings of any park attraction, shop, or restaurant… for every day in the park’s history.
  • The Unofficial Walt Disney World ‘Earbook 2010 is a photo-rich volume of 70 pages that park fans will find especially useful if they want to know what’s changed at WDW since their last visit.
  • Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes As the title implies, this is all about those little things in the parks that have significance to insiders and long-timers, but are never explained or highlighted.
  • Your Day at the Magic Kingdomis a full-color, hardcover interactive children’s book, where readers decide which attraction to ride next (and thus which page to turn to) - but watch out for some unexpected surprises!
  • Mouse Trap: Memoir of a Disneyland Cast Memberprovides the first authentic glimpse of what it’s like to work at Disneyland.
  • Tokyo Disney Made Easy is a travel guide to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySeas, written to make the entire trip stress-free for non-speakers of Japanese.
  • Magic Quizdom offers an exhaustive trivia quiz on Disneyland park, with expansive paragraph-length answers that flesh out the fuller story on this place rich with details.
  • 101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland is a list-oriented book that covers ground left intentionally unexposed in the trivia book, namely the tributes and homages around Disneyland, especially to past rides and attractions.

More information on the above titles, along with ordering options are at this link.